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Nutrition & Training Tips

Friday, March 23, 2012

What’s in a Guarantee?

By Steve Ries

Remember when a handshake and a person’s word was all it took to seal the deal? A person’s promise was a bond; integrity was not a commodity, but part of a common set of values. I’m not saying integrity no longer exists, but in today’s world, the expectation is to provide written guarantees to clarify who is responsible for what in case one party or another is not satisfied.

A Better Program Equals Better Odds
When it comes to breeding performance hunting companions, we are dealing with a variety of genetic traits and environmental factors. These factors, when combined with ownership expectations and changing goals, can occasionally produce results that are impossible to predict. This doesn’t mean we refuse to accept responsibility for our dogs––things happen that we couldn’t predict and couldn’t control. It does mean, though, that we need a good understanding of the people with whom we are doing business and try to ensure they have reasonable expectations.

If I were to tell you we have never had an issue with a dog, whether health or behavior related, I would not be giving an honest or realistic assessment. I can say with absolute confidence, however, that we follow a disciplined breeding and training regimen that is rigorously maintained to produce the most desirable traits. These traits include a number of factors among which overall health, hunting ability, and social behavior are given highest priority.

Owning Pups Doesn’t Make You a Breeder
Most kennels today offer some type of guarantee to provide a degree of confidence to prospective dog owners. The real guarantee, though, is the breeder himself. Have you ever heard the phrase: “I have not heard of this before” or “This is the first time we have ever had this happen”? A professional breeder with years of experience shouldn’t be able to utter these words honestly very often so it is understandably frustrating when they do.

When a person purchases a puppy from a breeder to get both the breed and the specific dog that best meets their needs, they expect a long term companion who will help them achieve the goals they had in mind when they began their search. When they learn after 2-3 years of time and expense for purchase, training and vaccination that their canine family member has a genetic issue that will require surgery, medication or worse, they are understandably upset.

I truly believe that many breeders do their best to provide a quality pup for purchase. They would not knowingly breed or sell an unhealthy animal with faulty genetic traits. The key point here is that they wouldn’t do it “knowingly”. In our experience it is most often a lack of knowledge and experience rather than a lack of integrity that is to blame when faulty genetics are reproduced. Unfortunately, this often results in animals that do no good for either the breed or the mislead owners.

Who Is Responsible For The Guarantee?
Much like buying a vehicle, you should think long term when shopping for a new pup. Sure you look for speed or style or comfort, but most importantly you look for a brand you trust and believe will provide long term value. Making an impulse purchase of an unknown brand because it’s attractive carries a much greater risk that you won’t be satisfied long term.

The same rules apply to shopping for a household or hunting companion. Don’t increase your risks by purchasing a “cute” pup from some fast talking owners of a litter (notice I did not use “breeders”) with little history or experience in doing business with the breed. This is a 10-15 year commitment we are talking about and it is worth your time, effort and money to do your research and find the best long term match for you.

In all fairness, even the most experienced breeders with the finest reputations can experience anomalies when recessive genes come together to create an unexpected and undesirable traits. The difference is that the reputable breeder will learn from this and take steps to eliminate this risk from future combinations. In all likelihood, because the breeder is reputable and experienced, he probably already has prevented many of these unforeseen combinations through years of selective breeding.

So who is responsible for the guarantee? The answer is both parties. A true guarantee comes from a combination of a reputable breeder and an informed consumer that has done their homework in identifying the desired breed and traits for them, as well as the right breeder.

Keep in mind that trait selection doesn’t only work for the dogs. If enough of us only buy from reputable breeders with the long term interest of both us and the breed in mind, pretty soon the less reputable breeders won’t have any customers. The only ones remaining will be those that are interested not only in the sale, but in a long term relationship with satisfied customers who will share their experience with others. The only real guarantee is choosing the right kind of breeder with integrity and years of hard won experience.

To learn more about Steve Ries and his training methods, visit